Demian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather tDemian is a coming of age story about a privileged young white man, Sinclair, who often feels at odds with society and his parents' religion. Rather than working through these things on his own, he finds a guru in one of his classmates, Demian. Demian offers our hero access to his darkest desires and transcendental thinking, encouraging him along a path of amorality shrouded in a "we're chosen and special" sort of egoistic mysticism.
I've now read this and Hesse's Siddhartha, and my big takeaway is: These are homoerotic love stories about young spiritual men looking for guidance and fetishizing their gurus. I think their main point is supposed to be the spirituality, but for me, as a queer semi-Buddhist, I can't see much more than sublimated love here. It's sweet but it's also a little funny - I'm left with the impression that Hesse didn't know himself very well. But these are uninformed opinions - I'll have to learn more about him to find out how self-conscious he was and how closely his personality informed his protagonists.
I'm not discounting these books' usefulness to humanity's spiritual evolution; I know these ideas felt very new and exciting and liberatory once, to many people, and that some of them are still in play today. But looking back from the vantage point of 2014, I see a lot of unexamined and sometimes-racist hocus pocus and Ayn Rand-like selfishness and amorality that are the mark of so many 1960s novels. Which wouldn't be a problem, except the protagonist and his guru are portrayed in a wholly positive light, and I think their narrative is meant to inspire and/or reinforce similar feelings in other spiritual seekers. Which is dangerous. So....more
I'll admit it, I only read about half of these stories before I gave up. It's a huge book. Ballard has a lot of obsessions, and they're played out agaI'll admit it, I only read about half of these stories before I gave up. It's a huge book. Ballard has a lot of obsessions, and they're played out again and again, his mythology growing and evolving as he matured as a writer. It's a fascinating collection, but it didn't hold my interest. I love his stories about fantastic architecture - infinitely large space stations and cities, tenements with ever-shrinking and hidden rooms - but I got tired of his portrayals of women. His protagonists are always male, fascinated and often doomed by mysterious and dangerous women who seem to embody the fearsomeness of untamed nature. They sing strangely, they wander around in a daze, they commune with plants and insects and the sea. If that sounds appealing to you, you'll probably like these stories. Personally, I kept wanting his protagonists to just have straight-up conversations with these strange women, instead of fantasizing about them....more
I picked this up at a second-hand shop for a dollar, and wowee am I glad I did. It's not every day you stumble on well-written feminist sci fi like thI picked this up at a second-hand shop for a dollar, and wowee am I glad I did. It's not every day you stumble on well-written feminist sci fi like that - I should know, I scour the sci fi section at my local library and don't have luck like this. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to discover this one.
Some of the stories are quite intense; they all focus on reproduction, and some tales are decidedly dystopian. Most of them, actually. But they're imaginative and creative, and of great social value. deFord was writing in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, a sexist era wherein scientists and governments dabbled in eugenics. deFord did not approve. Her witty, clever, critical eye takes it all in and spits it all out, reflecting our own cultural frailties and inanities back at us.
I like to think that if she were alive today, deFord would be glad to see women rising up and taking control of their reproduction, but I have a feeling she'd be writing dystopic visions of the Republicans and their war on women. I hope more folks will read this book and learn from it - she had a lot to say that's of great value to feminist activists, even ones living in 2012, like me....more
This is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely bThis is a great book if you're into in long time scales, longterm sustainability, the rise and fall of civilizations, evolution, and other extremely big picture stuff. It's also got a little mystery and suspense going, though you can anticipate more or less what's happening fairly early on in the book and the cluelessness of the protagonists gets a little tiresome.
I feel like this book is trying to make some big statements about judgement and morality and "goodness," but for me that aspect fell a little flat, and I was left feeling unsure as to just how moral and progressive Niven is, as an author. Nonetheless, he was a product of his time, and he certainly crafted a very novel thought experiment here.
Animal rights folks may find this book's treatment of speciesism and evolution to be worth reading. Note Niven's seeming blind spot when it comes to the inner lives of certain species who aren't given power or voice in his narrative.
My fellow feminists may find themselves as annoyed as I was with the single one-dimensional and lackluster human female character, but the gender and sex issues that come up with the humans' rival species are very interesting, particularly the treatment of pregnancy....more
**spoiler alert** This is a fun little speculative fiction short story written in 1905, relating a conversation between two women. One has found herse**spoiler alert** This is a fun little speculative fiction short story written in 1905, relating a conversation between two women. One has found herself transported to a sort of different dimension where women who were formerly in purdah have turned the tables and are now in control; the country is now a peaceful, happy, utopic place.
She meets a woman who explains that they accomplished this nonviolently and (more or less...) with consent. Dudes aren't given a lot of credit - Hossain asserts that when they controlled the economy, they wasted more hours each day smoking than they did working, for example).
Hossain uses often-witty dialogue to get her own ideas out to other women: At one point it's agreed between our heroine and her guide that "...it is not safe so long as there are men about the streets, nor is it so when a wild animal enters a marketplace." The solution, they disagree upon. The woman from our own world is shocked to see women in this other dimension walking about freely and uncovered, though she has to agree that they're perfectly safe since the men are now locked up, instead.
This may be an extremely dated and simplistic story, but it's very quick and entertaining, and may be of interest to others who dig feminist speculative fiction.
This book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting dThis book is about a people on a planet - how their cultures and bodies evolve, how their ideas change, how they somehow move through time, averting disaster again and again. They're different from us, ingeniously so, but they're also very similar. So much so, that if kids read this in high school, it would probably be a good thing for the world. It may be a fictional story starring liquid-filled bug people, but there's more to it than that - it's very instructive to read and ponder it, and to think about how our own future may follow similar (or different, but at least as deliberate) paths. The lesson in this book seems to be that if we can chart our way ahead, our destination may be a better one than if we mindlessly reinforce the status quo. Humanity needs some perspective, a longer view! And John Brunner has delivered it.
This book addresses sexism and the role of sex and gender in history, as well as issues around religion and belief and their (sometimes highly negative) impact on culture and the natural world. It's also packed with interesting ideas and concepts around animal rights. Get ready for some intense speciesism - the species followed in this book is perhaps even more species-supremacist than ours is, and their technologies are almost entirely based around the use and abuse of other species, selective breeding, and genetic engineering....more
Wow I love Daniel Quinn. This book takes up where Ishmael left off, but you could also enjoy it on its own. A girl talks to a gorilla. The gorilla helWow I love Daniel Quinn. This book takes up where Ishmael left off, but you could also enjoy it on its own. A girl talks to a gorilla. The gorilla helps the little girl through a learning process. And if you read this book, you'll learn what she learned, and you'll be (I hope) as inspired as she was.
What do you learn? How to save the world. How to find meaning. How to solve all your problems.
I don't know how to explain this. You should read the book. I think it will change your life. (Ishmael changed mine.)
If we all read Daniel Quinn's books, we would all be happier people, and our earth would begin to heal. In fact, because people are already reading his books, the world is already beginning to heal. Now read this book (or better yet, Ishmael, and then this one) so you know what I'm talking about!...more
This is a fun, quick, fanciful read. The main character and the plot are twined together in a fun way that involves some suspense and surprises, so IThis is a fun, quick, fanciful read. The main character and the plot are twined together in a fun way that involves some suspense and surprises, so I won't give anything away. If you like the idea of human evolution, and the idea of listening to space, you may enjoy this little novel....more
Dhalgren has an unusual structure and a high level of violence. I had a difficult time getting through it. Even so, I'm glad I hung in there - the booDhalgren has an unusual structure and a high level of violence. I had a difficult time getting through it. Even so, I'm glad I hung in there - the book holds an important place in the sci fi canon and it's justified. It was a very unusual read, experimental and interesting. Delany does a lot of things that I haven't seen before.
As in Nabokov's Pale Fire, Dhalgren plays with the line between character and author. The mental state of the this unreliable narrator is in constant question, as are the laws of physics in the strange city the characters inhabit. This makes for a very disorienting but novel read. However, at 801 pages, at times I found it hard to follow the story and relate to the characters. All of the experimentalness with so little real story-moving payoff for pages and pages got a little boring.
Where the book isn't dull, it's explicitly sexual and/or violent. Delany's protagonists are forging a new way of life that includes exploration of racial and ethnic and class identities, the roles of men and women, human consciousness and sanity, gender roles and expression, ideas about death and violence, and (often queer or polyamorous) sex with many kinks. This makes for some extremely detailed and challenging scenes that include slurs and other sexist and racist language, lots of sweat and grime and body fluids, problematic age differences between sex partners, and racially-charged rape games of questionable consensuality. However, it also has moments of tenderness, deeper consciousness and awareness, and healing. As well as gay leather daddies and gogo dancers. Basically there is a lot of sex and a lot of it may be the dirtiest (I mean actual dirt and grime, as well as raunch) such material you have ever read. John Waters would love it; I'm sure he has a copy.
It's pretty clear that for its time (it was written in 1974) this was an incredibly well-intentioned and radical book. It doubtless opened up space for people to claim identities and relationships that at the time had little public support.
Also of interest is the foreward to this 1996 edition, in which William Gibson (!) points out the connection between the burning city in Dhalgren, and the ephemeral other space created by collective countercultural will and action in the 1960s. I won't say anything else on this count to avoid spoilers, but if you're interested in the changing social mores of the '60s, you will find this a very compelling read....more
I saw this on the new arrivals shelf at the library and picked it up because the cover was interesting - a city in Thailand, far in the future and verI saw this on the new arrivals shelf at the library and picked it up because the cover was interesting - a city in Thailand, far in the future and very different than the world of today. It was a great read, suspenseful and intriguing - and apparently the first of a series, or at least in need of a sequel.
The Windup Girl is about a young woman who has been designed and raised by capitalist-geneticists, bent on playing god with plants and animals, including humans. They've made food a currency with monopolies selling sterile grain, they've destroyed the planet with engineered plagues and blights, and now they've crossed dogs with humans to make obedient workers they can treat like property. Even the Buddhists say they have no souls and treat them like objects, but it's plain that they are every bit as sentient as other human beings (and animals, from my vegan point of view).
The story is full of political intrigues, high-stakes gambling, and exploitation of all sorts. It's not an easy read. There are brutal scenes of war and other kinds of violence, including rape and sexual exploitation. But it is worth reading, if you care about the future of the world and want to think about the logical ends of capitalism and its hold on food, energy, and other rights.
This book made me very grateful for the biodiversity of today. It made me yearn for lychees. I don't usually indulge in tropical fruits, preferring the local life, but I was inspired to buy some, an extraordinary luxury in their little aluminum can, real and ripe and of the earth. The idea that one can taste a fruit from the other side of the earth is a precious and amazing thing that we should not take for granted.
This book also made me even surer that animals truly deserve rights. To deny someone personhood because we don't speak their language, because they look different from us or have different abilities, or because they are a different species, is a nice idea if you're in power and want to stay that way. I am ready to acknowledge personhood wherever it is, whether it threatens my privilege or not. This book helped clarify for me that the species barrier is a human fallacy, a wall we put up to keep ourselves in charge. Maybe as we continue to blur the line between human and animal we'll expand our circle of compassion. If we don't, we will continue to cause untold suffering.
Trigger warning: This book includes scenes of rape and sexual exploitation, and violence toward people based on religion, race, species, sex, gender, age, and more. These actions are depicted in a critical light and the author is clearly a progressive but the violence may trigger issues for some readers....more
"More Than Human" is well-intentioned, but out-dated. Sturgeon fancies that the next step in human evolution will be multi-culti, but unfortunately he"More Than Human" is well-intentioned, but out-dated. Sturgeon fancies that the next step in human evolution will be multi-culti, but unfortunately he also envisions it as hierarchical, run by smart white men. The only two people of color are a set of identical twin African American girls who can only speak one or two words and who are always (for sci fi reasons of course) naked. When the white guy finishes using their (admittedly awesome) skills he says "beat it." I'm sure that at the time, this didn't come off as totally oppressive, since this guy was pointedly waaaay less racist than the other people in the society around him, in the book. However, reading it today is uncomfortable and disappointing.
So, I don't really recommend this one, unless you're very interested in gestalt theory, paranormal abilities, hive or group minds, the future of human evolution, or, I dunno... sci fi novels of historic interest which are well-intentioned and progressive for their time, but unfortunately racist by today's standards? If that sounds interesting (or perhaps of some scholarly value), read this. Otherwise, skip it and find something by Ursula K. LeGuin....more
A friend lent this book to me since I was raving about Rainbows End. This earlier book by Vinge contains a lot of the thinking that went into RainbowsA friend lent this book to me since I was raving about Rainbows End. This earlier book by Vinge contains a lot of the thinking that went into Rainbows End: Within the book, the dramatic chase / rescue story is discussed by online postings from many sources. The characters are reading what the Net is saying about them as the action goes down, which makes for a very interesting narrative that hits very close to home.
The concept of the book is also technological in nature - Vinge posits that one's distance above or below the galactic plane impacts one's ability to understand and create new technologies. We on earth are trapped in "the Slowness" while other, far more advanced civilizations are high above us, enjoying faster-than-the-speed-of-light travel, truly intelligent navigation and search programs, anti-gravity fabric, and other niceties.
But then, earth doesn't really make it into the book - it's stuff of legend. The action in this story takes place far away from our small concerns, which makes for a truly mind-expanding experience. Vinge's excellent writing and far-reaching ideas paint a very diverse and thought-provoking galaxy of species, from clueless cloud beings to forgetful "potted plants" assisted by wheeled memory banks; from transcendent but amoral "gods", to intriguingly different varieties of human. These varied characters challenge our ideas of who deserves rights, who qualifies as a person, where religion comes from and how far morality can reach, and how different beings should relate to each other....more
This is kind of a pulp fiction thing from 1967, about a swinging Berkeley professor of the future who discovers something fishy about an Eskimo culturThis is kind of a pulp fiction thing from 1967, about a swinging Berkeley professor of the future who discovers something fishy about an Eskimo cultural sanctuary. He then decides he has to take some action to save the planet, and the plot goes craaaaazy from there, ranging from government conspiracies to aliens to population science to discussions of specieshood and genocide and the future of the planet. The author manages to be quite progressive considering his subject matter and when he was writing the book, though it's (unintentionally) racist over and over again. It's very anti-CIA, and feels like it was written by a real-life activist professor, so it really gets into the science at the expense of the plot and characters making sense. Nonetheless it was worth reading, if only because it's a real sign of its times, and still so relevant today....more